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John Howard's memories from around 1860 to 1910

Liz Bryant has transcribed the following account, believed to have be written by John Howard, nephew of Dorothy Marrable Howard (nee Bryant) in 1960:

Howards: The first half century in the High Street

In 1860, Daniel Howard, after a number of years in business in the new Road brought his young family down to the High Street and moved into the shop at 298 which had been Donovans' Cottage with its garden fronting the road.

At 6 AM he would open his shop, as in the first light of morning the carters from the surrounding farms and market gardens began their journey to Covent Garden and drove up to have their lamps filled, for they would not be home again before dark. Nor perhaps would the boys pushing a handcart loaded with a kitchen range and a wringer to Greenford or Bedfont or to the south of the river through the toll gates on Kew Bridge.

Behind the shops the smiths would be beating out ironwork still to be seen in Osterley Park and in Osterley House itself, the great copper pans and churns just back from Howard's for re-turning, would gleam brightly in the dark underground kitchens. Two of Howard's men would be found at the House for a full month before the arrival of the Earl to ensure that his housekeeper could think of the roofs and fireplaces, the plumbing, the boilers, the old bell pulls and the new gas stoves, with a quiet and confident mind.

At the shop, ton after ton of nails for pony and dray horse, bar iron for the tyres of cart and coach, rain pipe and guttering moved on long-suffering shoulders.

On a Thursday, the doors would be shut at 2 PM, although work would go on until 7 PM and on other weekdays the shop would be open until 8 PM, and there would be a busy trade in household wares for Brentford was a popular centre of trade. On Saturday nights the town would fill up with hundred of shoppers brought by the Great Western from Southall, and the High Street would be jammed with people when the shops at the lower end closed at midnight. Howards closed earlier at 10 PM and shutters went up over all the windows: not a surprising precaution when the Royal Brewery's ales sold, and sold well at 2d per bottle.

Daniel Howard prospered and expanded his business. Behind and above the shop he reared a large family, and in time changed the style of the firm from D. Howard to D Howard & Son, and then to the familiar Howard & Sons, as in succession he was joined by his son Henry and finally, in 1895, retired to leave Henry and his brother Charles in partnership.

Henry had moved into the shop, but 'The Old Governor' was not content to sit back in his new house in what was to become Hamilton Road, and day by day, he was still to be found on the chair just inside the shop door passing the time of day with the customers he had served for half a century.

By this time No. 299 previously one of the enormous numbers of public houses in the High Street had been incorporated in a new double frontage which remains unchanged to this day. But others were changing fast. Steam waggons and electric trams were in the High Street, Industry was growing, and the houses were spreading over the fields of Ealing and Brentford. Housewives were finding new shops close at hand elsewhere.

Under Henry and Charles, the firm was slowly turning to the service of Industry. Hours were radically cut to a mere twelve per day 7 AM to 7 PM. Three of the present members of staff joined the firm in this period: Sid Southard (1901) Bill Garrard (1917) and Charles Willcox, now Deputy General Manager (1918) all joined Howard's as boys and seem to be none the worse for the hard life of their early years.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of Henry's sons Bernard and Frank, who are affectionately remembered by many. But this is to stray into the second half century of Howard & Sons, High Street, Brentford.




A History of Howard and Sons by Liz Bryant, which includes photos of the High Street frontage.
Notes about the occupants of 298-299 High Street; at the foot of this page are links to images of the area

Published February 2020